COLORADO SPRINGS — 13-year-old Josh Wouden has been selected as the Space Force recipient of the Military Child of the Year Award from Operation Homefront.
Josh's family history with the military dates back generations. His father, Derek Wouden, began his military career in the Air Force and about a year ago transitioned into the Space Force. In total, Josh's father has served for around 14 years. "Every military kid will probably agree that it's cool to be able to tell stories about your family and their military life. For example, my dad's now in the Space Force. Being one of the first one thousand, I love bragging about him," said Josh.
His great grandfather, grandparents, and some uncles are also military members.
"Really cool to experience being able to talk to a relative that's been in WWII."
Still, Josh says there are challenges that come with growing up in a military family. "I absolutely hate moving. It's kind of heartbreaking. Especially our move from DC, is probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life, because I had so many good friends over there," said Josh.
Throughout the many moves, Josh's mom says he has always been helpful and positive. She says he's a wonderful role model for the other children in the family, being the oldest of five siblings. "My husband has often had, just up until recently, has been on operation crews. Which mean 24/7 manning. And so, you are dealing with all sorts of crazy schedules, over holidays, and you have no say... Josh always picked up the slack. He knew what to do with the kids, he knew how to handle things, he knew what to get me to help me, and so, he's been a lifesaver," said Joy Wouden.
Josh's parents decided it would be a good idea to submit him for the Military Child of the Year Award. They said it was not about winning, but about showing Josh just how special he is. "Things have gotten difficult with COVID, my son talked earlier about some of the difficulties with the moves, this last one was most difficult for him... The service of my wife, the service of my kids, is just as vital to everything that we do," said Derek Wouden.
"The chance for him to recognize how awesome he is, because everybody tells him how great he is, but I don't think he sees it in himself. And I think this is his chance to see that all of those things that he does are recognized and valuable."
When first submitting his application for the award, Josh did not think he would win. "I really had absolutely zero hope. And mom started writing things down in the first document about myself, and I kind of started to realize what the military has done for me," said Wouden.
It was announced Wouden won the Military Child of the Year Award for the Space Force on March 15. There is a winner selected for each military branch from all across the country. Each recipient wins $10,000 and a new laptop.
Wouden plans to use the majority of the money for a mission through his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He did dip into some of it for a brand new baseball bat, which is his favorite sport.
Wouden said he's absorbed many qualities over the years from his military family members. Those include leadership, accountability, and responsibility. "Service in the military translates over to service in general. They're all very kind people, and love to help everyone around them... Keep trying, hard work, do the best you can, and it will eventually pay off, no matter what," said Wouden.
Operation Homefront is a national non-profit dedicated to building and sustaining strong, stable, and secure military families. Their programs range from financial assistance to recurring family support systems.
In response to the pandemic, Operation Homefront created their Critical Financial Assistance branch in March of 2020, which is money reserved for families impacted by COVID-19. They have fulfilled nearly 2,000 requests across the country, totaling to around $1.2 million in financial assistance. The specific figures for Colorado families can be viewed in the below graphic:
Other milestones of note, provided by a spokesperson with Operation Homefront:
- In 2020, they served their 500,000th military family member through the Holiday Meals for Military program
- This year they’ll provide the 450,000th child with a backpack full of school supplies through Back-to-School Brigade
- They'll provide their 6,000th month of rent-free housing, saving more than $7 million in rent/utilities costs
- They'll graduate their 650th military family from their Permanent Homes for Veterans housing program, providing more than $95 million in deeded home equity to military families